Al-Qaeda is only the best-known brand name. They did not invent violent jihad themselves. “Morocco’s problem: Freelance jihadis, not al-Qaida,” by Paul Schemm for the Associated Press, October 15:
RABAT, Morocco (AP) “” After years of promoting jihad in online forums, Muadh Irshad was ready to take his fervor to the real world.
“I spent beautiful years tasting hope and pain in these forums … Today it is time for farewell,” he wrote in his final post. “Jihad is the solution.”
Two weeks later, on Sept. 23, Moroccan security forces raided his Casablanca apartment, allegedly finding plans to attack Jewish businessmen, French journalists and police stations. He was arrested with two accomplices. Soon afterward, a second raid in Casablanca netted another cell plotting attacks.
The two cells reflect a form of terrorism that experts say is one of the greatest dangers facing the world today: Freelance jihadism.
Morocco’s vigilant internal security forces and tightly guarded borders have kept al-Qaida at bay in this North African kingdom, which attracts millions of tourists worldwide. But it hasn’t stopped the lone wolves who are inspired by al-Qaida to carry out copycat attacks. As post-9/11 surveillance routinely busts up organized cells and terror networks, these self-styled jihadis are gaining more prominence around the globe.
Lone-wolf plots in Europe and the United States are increasingly the focus of international anti-terror operations. In March, a Kosovo Albanian acting alone fatally shot two American airmen in Frankfurt, Germany. And a former U.S. Army psychiatrist is the sole suspect in deadly shootings at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009.
In the Middle East, small homegrown cells have been cropping up in countries like Morocco and Egypt that don’t have a strong al-Qaida presence.
In some ways Morocco’s single cells are less daunting to fight than the coherent al-Qaida network in neighboring Algeria and Mauritania, an implacable, well-armed and well-funded enemy with a strategic agenda. For the most part, the amateur jihadi outfits are nipped in the bud, like the ones over the last two weeks.
However, just as in plots in the West, it can be hard to pick up on lone jihadis in tiny cells that are not part of an organization. On April 28, for example, a remote control bomb exploded in a Marrakech cafe popular with tourists, killing 17 people, mostly foreigners. […]
The discussion rooms of militant websites provide a glimpse at the seething rage found across much of the Muslim world as would-be mujahedeen trade tips on how to strike blows against the “Crusaders and Zionists,” especially if they are unable to make it to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan on their own….